How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Siloam Springs Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Siloam Springs AR and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Siloam Springs residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Siloam Springs AR with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Siloam Springs AR paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Siloam Springs AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Siloam Springs AR.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Siloam Springs AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Siloam Springs AR area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Siloam Springs AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Siloam Springs AR paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Siloam Springs AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Siloam Springs AR local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Siloam Springs AR. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Siloam Springs AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Siloam Springs AR?
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
Siloam Springs is a city in Benton County, Arkansas, United States. The city shares a border on the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line with the city of West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma, which is within the Cherokee Nation territory. The town was founded in 1882 and was characterized by the purported healing powers of the spring water feeding Sager Creek and trading with nearby Native American tribes. John Brown University (JBU) was founded in 1919 as a private, interdenominational, Christian liberal arts college in the city. Today, Siloam Springs is known for its efforts to preserve and revitalize the city's historic downtown and as a promoter of the arts via Sager Creek Arts Center and the JBU art gallery. The community is located on the western edge of the growing Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area and has had a population increase of 47% to 15,039 between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.
Osage Indians were the known first inhabitants of the area. Siloam Springs' first white settlers were of German and Scots-Irish origin. Simon Sager is considered the founder of the town, then known as Hico.
The area is located in the Mid-South region of the country where the southern plains meet the Ozark Mountains. The city sits atop a plateau with many dogwood trees growing across the landscape. Siloam Springs is made up of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. The latter is in the territory of the Cherokee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.2 square miles (28.9 km2), of which 11.1 square miles (28.7 km2) is land and 0.077 square miles (0.2 km2), or 0.71%, is water.
Find the Best Paralegal College near Siloam Springs AR
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Siloam Springs residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Siloam Springs AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
She also teaches the Introduction to Paralegalism class. Thornberry currently works as a real estate paralegal in a land development business. She is also a licensed realtor. Thornberry previously worked for the law firm of Burnham and Brown. Thornberry earned her Paralegal Certificate from California State University, East Bay in 1993.
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